Worry. It’s the Christian version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Most everyone does it, but few admit it. And fewer still learn the lessons that worry, and fear can teach.
These days there seems to be a lot to worry about. The coronavirus has created a new normal. Church services have been cancelled. Entire cites are under quarantine. Some areas are more impacted than others, but even that adds to the uncertainty of it all. We are fighting the worst possible enemy, one that we can’t see.
And the sad reality is, the coronavirus is the least of the worries of many families across this nation. Deaths didn’t pause for a moment. Families are mourning the passing of loved ones without the support of relatives and friends who can’t safely attend the memorials. Cancer didn’t disappear. Drug addiction didn’t stop. Problems didn’t pause. In other words, life with all of its challenges continues with or without a virus.
And in the face of this mess, Jesus gives an almost unnatural command in Matthew 6:25, “Don’t worry about your life.” Paul was even more emphatic in Philippians 4: 6,” Don’t worry about ANYTHING….” Really? Don’t worry about anything in life. How in the world is that possible?
First let’s be clear what the Bible means when it talks about worry. In the Old and New Testaments there are a number of words that describe worry. Some are positive, most are negative. It all depends on the context. The primary word is merimnao. When it’s describing legitimate concern or Christian care, then the word is positive. But that’s not the “worry” that the Bible warns us against.
The worry that Christ commands us to avoid is a destructive anxiety, an over-concern. It literally means “distracted”, “divided”, “driven in different directions” Like fear, it’s a legitimate emotion that is functioning illegitimately. In Matthew 5 and 6, Jesus talks about worry in the context of His kingdom. The issue is primarily allegiance. Where is your citizenship? Which king will you trust? More on that later.
But there are a number of practical things that you should avoid, especially in this pandemic, if you want to fight worry. I’ll identify 3 and we’ll take a more positive turn in part two
In times of crisis we should aggressively guard the avenues into our minds and emotions. People are struggling with a type of sensory overload of news in general. But this coronavirus has been Christmas in March for the conspiracy theorists. Here are just a few of the theories:
· The US with help of Bill Gates manufactured the virus in 2018.
· There is a vaccine, but the government won’t release it.
· It began with Chinese eating bats in Wuhan.
· The US weaponized it against China.
· The Chinese weaponized it against the US
Now, I’m sure that someone reading this blog has found a friend in at least one of those theories. And that’s the genius of many theories. They have just enough truth to cover you while you take the plunge. But it’s a black hole. Conspiracy theories by their very nature are impossible to prove, so they have an endless shelf life.
But if you want to avoid worry, better to take one of Paul’s most famous remedies for worry, “Whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…excellent or praiseworthy-think about those things!” Phil. 4:8
I used the word fatalistic for alliteration. The word I wanted to use was NEGATIVE!! There are some people who are negative by nature. Under the best of circumstances, they carry a cloud. But in a crisis that cloud becomes a storm. Are there often reasons for their pessimism? Yes. Should you make their worry the source of yours? No.
I wrote on Facebook this week that I’m convinced that some folk must stay up at night thinking of “helpful” things to post that will frighten people…. well, I was a little more graphic on Facebook, but this is a family post. The point is the source of your worry might very well be your well-meaning friends. Be careful of your company online and in person.
I’m being kind. I generally call them Prophecy Pimps. Religious leaders who have made a cottage industry of end time speculation. At times they seem to traffic in the worry of well-meaning people. I have lived and studied long enough to remember the number of cataclysmic events that were supposed to be “proof positive” that the world is about to end. But we’re still here.
I’m not being cavalier. I’ve not seen anything quite like this virus. But God’s ways and times are impossible to control or fully understand. I don’t know what’s happening next, but I do know what’s happening now. People are praying like they’ve never prayed before. That’s a great remedy for worry. I’ll pick that up in Part Two.
What are your thoughts? Please share. Thanks!